There are times when the world seems to stop for an instant, everything falls silent, we find ourselves able to breathe more deeply, and a flood of contentment rushes in with the fresh air. In these brief windows of calm I am overwhelmed by gratitude for life, for the series of random events that have led to me being who I am and where I am, for the here and the now. Past worries are forgotten, pressures of the future pushed aside, the present is allowed to exist in all its glory.
I had one such experience last month as I sat, slowly cooling, on the porch of a sauna, surrounded by woods and looking down to the water beyond as a tranquil evening descended. How lucky I am to be here I thought. Here being the immediate geographic, an island on Lake Päijänne, a little over two hours north of Helsinki, Finland, here being the temporal, at the precise point the sky moved towards the ‘blue moment’ as the light began to fade in the shortening evening of Northern late summer, and here being the philosophic, the chance encounters that brought me a Finnish friend.
We who have the privilege to travel, we lucky, fortunate few, who by some twist of fate, some chance of circumstance, have been born in the right place, the right time and whose luck has held beyond the success of our birth, need times such as these. We need to step back and take stock, to appreciate the now. We need to forget the next destination, the ticking off of lists, the collecting of experiences and instead, actually experience. There is great richness in the simple things, in peace and quiet, in time spent with friends and family, not doing but being.
Travel teaches us many lessons. It makes us tolerant of difference, it provides insight in to our strengths and our weaknesses, it makes us appreciate what we have, if only we stop for a moment to let it sink in.